Why Allen Iverson Should Play In The NBL

Last Saturday night while being honoured with a bobblehead at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Philadelphia, former NBA Superstar Allen Iverson raised the possibility of a return to the game that has brought him so much success in the past fifteen years. This was music to the ears of many NBA and basketball fans alike. But will it happen? That’s the burning question. This isn’t the first time however that Iverson has hinted at a return to the game. In May last year, Iverson mentioned the possibility of a comeback while attending a Sixers vs Celtics playoffs game. He has received very little interest since. But why? Iverson’s passion for the game is still there; the question is his head. Throughout his thirteen year NBA career, Iverson was the NBA scoring champion four times, finishing with a career average of 26.7PPG. That’s good for 19th of All Time. His pure shooting ability has made him one of the most dangerous — and iconic — players in the past two decades.  Nowadays, Iverson sits in his Philadelphia home, wandering around his sub-billion dollar mansion, casting a nostalgic eye upon his eleven NBA all-star medals and 2001 MVP medal dreaming about what may be next. An NBA return? Not likely. An NBL debut, however? Why not?! The NBL has a long and rich history hosting accomplished American imports, but Iverson may very well take the cake as the best, and in a period where the NBL is suffering a lull in attendance (more of this later), bringing a monster name and personality like Iverson is a win-win situation.  Gone are the days of players like Leroy Loggins, Robert Rose, James Crawford and Lanard Copeland and gone are the players who could act as the face of their given NBL franchises. These players all disappeared as soon as the NBL’s golden age of the late 80’s and 90’s did. Big name players were the reasons fans went to the games. They didn’t go to see or support their team, they came to see and support their stars. Would any casual basketball fan in Australia really know who   Chris Goulding, Gary irving or Oscar Forman are? What about Ben Magden? He was the NBL’s leading scorer this season. He may be an good player, but a household name? Probably not.  The NBL have had a very limited number of bonafide stars that they could market in recent years. The last two years especially have seen the NBL scoring leader finish the season with a sub 20.0PPG average; an all-time low for the league. If Iverson really is keen to get back into basketball; the NBL should not hesitate to help him make his decision and offer him an opportunity down under. Bring the golden age back! As a guy who has made his name and money as one of the greatest shooters and big mouths in NBA/ABA history, there is no doubt he would see some success in some way in the NBL; and, in the grand scheme of things, that’s probably what Iverson is missing the most. He misses being the best and proving to everyone exactly that, in a one-on-one contest, he will burn you and tell you about it more often than not. How many points he will be able to generate per game if he was to play is really anyones guess. Could he become the first player since NBL great Andrew Gaze in 1999 to score over 30.0PPG for the season? Could he become the first player in NBL history to score over 40.0PPG? There’s no reason why he couldn’t.  It may — I stress; may — take Iverson a game (or two) to really get accustomed to the style of the FIBA-Ruled NBL (the closely guarded rule, the three-second rule and the travelling interpretations all differ from the NBA), but the closer arc and slower bodies could certainly help Iverson become the premier NBL scorer next season. It is worth noting however that the last two times he played with FIBA rules; in 2010/11 for Turkish club Beşiktaş JK İstanbu and the 2004 Athens Olympics), he only averaged 14.3PPG and 13.8PPG respectively. Take from that what you will.  Even if he doesn’t generate those NBA-quality numbers, just imagine what would happen if he was to grace the hardwood in Adelaide Arena, Cairns Convention Centre or Townsville Entertainment Centre. Those places would pour in maximum attendance night after night. During the 2012/13 Season, no team except the Perth Wildcats got more than 10,000 people for a single match and all but three teams averaged higher than 5,000 people per night. For Australia’s premier basketball league, that’s really not good enough.  Bringing in a name like Iverson would do wonders for the NBL not just for game day attendance, but for TV Ratings — Imagine Channel 10 promoting an Allen Iverson vs Cedric Jackson Match Up — and, perhaps most importantly, international interest to the NBL as a brand. We thought we hit the jackpot when Johnny Flynn chose to come to Australia over China, but if we could land Allen Iverson, then Flynn would, rightly or wrongly, be just about forgotten.  Many of the haters and doubters would argue that Iverson’s personality and style of game wouldn’t be suited to how certain clubs would want to play, but if you’re a club like the Townsville Crocodiles, the Cairns Taipans, the Adelaide 36ers or, to a lesser extend, the Melbourne Tigers who are lacking that X-Factor, bringing him into the system would not only be beneficial for the 2013/14 season, but it would be beneficial for the team in the years beyond. Having that experience playing with a player who has just about done in all in basketball terms would allow the other players to learn from him and have that experience playing against him in training (if he rocks up, that is). Sure, he’s had some off court issues before, but you’re going to get that in a national sporting league. It’s something that every other league in the world has learned to deal with and it’s something that the NBL should deal with, too. Especially when the league is lacking those household, poster-above-the-bed names.  If Iverson was to play in the NBL next season, I’m sure a lot of supporters and observers would be thinking that his team would release a player profile something like this:  The (NBL Team) would like to welcome new import; former NBA superstar Allen Iverson (37), a guard most well known for his performance as a Philadelphia 76er. Throughout his illustrious NBA career, Iverson has battled adversity both on the court and off but we’re confident that the experience, wealth and street credibility that he brings to the club will only be beneficial for the upcoming season. Iverson’s confidence and ability to take the game by the throat and lift his teammates to become integral spectators within the game will become paramount in the success of the club. His arrival will allow younger players to really step up and be given the opportunity to show what they can do at training.  But in the end, this is really all that matters: The (NBL Team) would like to welcome new import Allen Iverson. S-U-P-E-R-S-T-A-R!  So come on NBL. Let’s make the move. Let’s offer everything we can to the great man and see if we can’t get him down. #alleniverson4theNBL  Christopher Tyler 


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